Oliver, 27, runs an events management company, Ollywood. He offers installation, custom woodwork, graphics, signage and project management.

Almost everyone who works with him used to be part of the military. “We’re a team of military veterans,” he explains. “Ollywood is the single point of contact for the client and then we find the best people for the job.” Everyone works on a freelance basis.

For example, a shopping centre contracted Ollywood to set up their Winter Wonderland, including putting up Christmas trees and building wooden sleighs where people can take photographs. “Big businesses might want to do something for an event and have to outsource every element but it can take up so much of their time. We accumulate everything together.”

Ollywood has been operating since April 2019 and has already worked with almost 30 clients. To keep business finances in order, Oliver uses a Starling business account.

The freelancers and military veterans who work for Ollywood, photo credit: Martin Bennett

Turning your strengths into a business

Ollywood is the latest in a series of small enterprises Oliver has set up and run. While studying music at Oldham College near Manchester, he set up a disco and karaoke business. “In the area where I grew up, there wasn’t anything happening so I thought I’d go for it - I did kids’ parties, weddings. I used CDs - that’s how old school it was.”

Between the period providing karaoke for kids’ parties and later, creating Winter Wonderlands, Oliver worked as a chef for the Royal Air Force (RAF) and as an event manager for pop-up shops associated with Waitrose & Partners.

He entered the military aged 18 and trained to be a chef with the RAF in Oxford. He was then posted to work in Leuchars in Scotland. He also spent time in the Falklands. In 2017, he moved on from the military to work in the events industry. Woodwork has always been a hobby for Oliver - a skill he incorporated into his business.

As well as a network of veterans, his time in the military also provided an ethos for Ollywood. “Without knowing it, the military teaches you to be a certain way - to treat people with respect and to be open and honest - and you carry that into your business,” he says.

An all-rounder business bank

“I love Starling, I’ve had it from day one,” says Oliver. “I go shouting to everyone about what you do. People say ’It’s too good to be true - why is it free?’ And I say, ’Don’t you worry about that. Just do it.’” There are no monthly fees for a Starling business account. For those who need a Starling euro business account, the cost is £2 per month.

Oliver uses Starling to manage day to day payments to freelancers and suppliers. One supplier is based in Germany and he can pay them using the International Payments feature of his Starling business account. For invoices, Oliver uses online accounting software provider QuickBooks, one of the partners integrated into the Starling Business Marketplace. The Marketplace is the space in the app where customers can browse and select third-party products and services.

Oliver is a Starling business customer, photo credit: Martin Bennett

All Starling accounts include in-built smart money management features. “The notification when you get paid is really helpful,” he says. “Customer service is also great - any time of the day or night, you can go onto your phone and get it sorted.” Starling customer service is available 24/7 through live chat in the app, a phone call or via email.

Starling is an app-based bank but business customers also have the option to bank through their desktop. “It’s easier when you’re having a day in the office to go through everything with it being on a bigger screen and you still need your phone for payments, which is good for security,” he says.

Plans for 2020

In the new year, Oliver plans to keep building his business network. “Once people know what we do, they come to us when they need us,” he says.

If you’re planning to make 2020 the year you start a business, his advice is to go out and talk to as many people as possible. “You can’t go on Amazon and buy a book on the A to Z of business - it would be too generic. How it usually works is that you meet people along the way who know someone else who can help you.”

For Ollie, there are two key traits in a good entrepreneur: “Honesty and having loads of energy.”

Find out more about Ollywood on the website.

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